The White Cat - a short story

 

chapter 4

 

Although we had settled into a routine, I was reluctant to take the next step, which was to put him in a carrying case to go on a visit to the veterinary doctor. I was afraid of Whitey's reaction to being caged.

However reluctant I was, it was something that had to be done. It was more than likely that he had internal parasites. He also needed shots for rabies and other communicable diseases, since he spent much of his time wandering out-of-doors. The time had come to face the situation.

Finding a cage was no problem; I borrowed one from a friend. Getting Whitey in the cage proved easier than I had expected. I left the cage setting with the door open in a corner of the room for a few days to let him get used to it.

Whitey ignored the cage until I put some food in it. He hesitated for a moment and then walked in to get the treats. I quickly closed the door with him inside the cage. He whirled and stared at the door in bewilderment then seemed to go crazy. He threw himself at the door, squalling in rage. All the time, I talked softly to him trying to get him to calm down.

There was no question about letting him out and trying again some other day. I was sure he would never go near that cage again. Eventually he exhausted himself and he began to calm down. Perhaps, my calm reassurance helped. I covered the cage with a towel and off we went.

The visit to the vet proved to be a trial for all three of us. After I explained the situation to the doctor, she wisely put on a pair of thin leather gloves before trying to handle the unhappy cat. He definitely didn't take well to a stranger touching him.

The tests the vet ran proved my fears of parasites to be true. The fears I had of Whitey's reaction to getting a shot proved unfounded. He seemed to take those in stride. Perhaps, it was because of all the times he had been scratched and bitten by other cats. These pinpricks were nothing compared to those wounds.

When the visit was over, we headed home with a few packets of medication and instructions on the proper care for a cat. There was an additional benefit to the trip - I now knew that Whitey was approximately three years old. He should have many long years ahead of him.

When the door of the cage opened, once we were home, Whitey exploded from the cage as if he had been shot from a cannon. He turned to glare at me as if all of his original fears had been confirmed. I felt terrible for abusing his trust. I quickly put the cage from sight and waited for him to calm down.

At first, he stayed in the corner, glaring at the world. Eventually, as the evening progressed, he calmed down enough to eat and later came to me for a session of petting. By the next morning things seemed to have returned to normal and we settled back into our routine.

It had been early June when I first saw the stray white cat in my yard. It had taken a month to befriend him. Once the incident of the cage was put behind us, we acted as if we had been together forever.

Each morning, when I went to work, Whitey would head out into the backyard to explore his world. Each night when I returned he would be waiting at the door ready for another evening together. This continued throughout the summer. Then, one day in early October, Whitey wasn't waiting for me when I got home.

Throughout the evening, I would go to the door to look for him. I called his name a few times, but there was no response. I had no idea where he might be or what trouble he may have encountered.

That night my sleep was troubled. Every night for the last three months, Whitey had been waiting for me when I arrived home. I feared for his safety. I reassured myself that he was a street-smart cat that could deal with just about anything he ran into.

The two main dangers were cars and stray dogs. However, he was a city cat, well acquainted with streets and cars. He could not have survived as long as he had if he was careless about traffic. He was also a tough cat that would take no nonsense from any stray dog he encountered. These thoughts did little to calm my fears.

The next night there was still no sign of him. Now I was really starting to worry. I put out food and water just in case he came during the night. The next morning neither had been touched.

The days went on with no sign of the white cat. The leaves on the trees changed color and fell to the ground and still no Whitey. I despaired of ever seeing him again. When the wind and snows of November arrived without a visit from him, I knew I'd probably never see my friend again.

Friends and acquaintances come and go during a normal lifetime. We may miss them, but life goes on. I felt that I had been lucky to gain the trust of such a wild animal. A feral cat can be wilder than what we normally think of as a 'wild' animal. Whitey had been truly wild when I first saw him.

By the end of our too brief time together, we had grown to be great friends. We spent many a long evening together enjoying each other's nearness. I treasured the moments when he would forget his dignity and act like a silly little kitten. It was hard to picture the wild cat I had first seen acting like a kitten under any circumstances.

As the winter wore on, all hope of ever seeing him again vanished. It was time to move on.

As hard as it was to let go, I had my memories and the knowledge that my efforts had made it possible for the white cat to accept human companionship. I began to picture Whitey curled up on a couch with a young child lavishing affection on him. I had never been willing to accept that he had run into a situation that he couldn't handle. I was sure he had been adopted by another family and had settled down to live with them. It was very possible they never let him go out-of-doors, so he had no chance to return to me.

Today, it is possible to look back fondly on these memories. The effort I put forth to befriend a stray cat had been repaid many times over by his displays of affection and trust. Wherever Whitey is today, I hope he remembers the strange man with the soft, deep voice that first befriended him. I wish him well.

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